The causes of China’s record level fine particulate pollution in winter 2013
At the beginning of 2013 a greyish-brown blanket of smog lay over large areas of China for several months. The fine particle pollution was higher by 1 to 2 orders of magnitude than the levels normally measured in Western Europe and the United States. An international team of researchers under the lead of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI and the Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of the Sciences revealed the causes of the "airpocalypse". The study published in the journal Nature also describes what steps are to be taken to prevent an environmental crisis of this kind in the future.
Switzerland is increasing its contribution to the OSCE special monitoring mission in Ukraine by CHF 600,000 and by providing up to an additional ten observers. This was announced by the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, President of the Swiss Confederation Didier Burkhalter, in his opening speech at the OSCE Economic and Environmental Forum in Prague. The situation in Ukraine also took centre stage in the bilateral talks between President Burkhalter, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaorálek. The main theme of the Economic and Environmental Forum is the prevention of natural disasters, which is also one of the priorities of Switzerland's OSCE Chairmanship.
Abundant supplies of safe drinking water are among Switzerland’s most valuable natural resources, with groundwater accounting for 80% of the total. A third of this groundwater, in turn, is fed by infiltrating river water. Although contaminants and pathogens are filtered out as they pass through the soil, this natural protection system is not infallible. That makes it all the more important for river water to be kept as clean as possible, and for interactions between river and groundwater to be carefully observed.
For five years, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the Federal Office for the Environment and the Federal Office for Agriculture actively supported work on a new standard to ensure that water usage worldwide can be assessed according to uniform criteria. The new norm is intended to help both identify the impacts of water usage, and implement measures to use water more efficiently. The ISO standard for conducting a water footprint assessment was adopted by the organisation's member states in July, and presented to a broad audience today at World Water Week in Stockholm.